Third round of ESSER funding released to school districts

Students took part in an arts camp at McCracken County High School this year where they created a claymation video, learning techniques of video production and claymation usage. ESSER II funding helped make this possible.

A third round of school district funding provided through the CARES Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan of 2021 has been released to districts across Kentucky.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding — commonly known as ESSER funding — has bolstered school districts that have been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Paducah Independent School District received $1.2 million through the first distribution of funding, called ESSER I, last year through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, and nearly $5 million through ESSER II funding earlier this year.

The district will receive $10.77 million in ESSER III funding.

McCracken County received $1.2 million in ESSER I funding and $5.2 million in ESSER II funding. The district will receive $11.6 million in ESSER III funding.

Angela Copeland, the director of finance for the Paducah Independent School District, said there is also a “set-aside amount” as a result of spending a set portion of the ESSER II funding on direct student services. That is $201,629 for Paducah schools and $470,000 for McCracken schools.

“Twenty percent of it has to be set aside directly for lost instruction, much like we’ve done with our summer enrichment program, providing funds back to each individual school to address and target their student needs specifically,” said McCracken County Superintendent Steve Carter.

“We will continue to try to work and put measures in place in case there is a spike in COVID cases or things like that. Some of that may include upgrades to some facilities as well as providing hands-on opportunities for our students.”

The PISD Board will have a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to gather community input as to the uses for ESSER III funding.

“We have to get feedback from the community on how they would like to see us spend the money,” Coleman said.

“ESSER I was mostly spent on computers for children. We are trying to get everyone 1-to-1 (computers-to-students). ESSER II — we are just now starting to spend that — will be spent on what is called Equal Opportunity Schools, education consulting. We’ve got several professional consultants that we will be spending that money on.”

Carter said his school district spent the money on summer enrichment programs and reimbursements for cleaning and other expenses.

Kelly Foster, associate commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Continuous Improvement and Support, said districts should have their Safe Return to In-person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan posted to their district’s website by Saturday.

This plan outlines how the district will seek to promote the health and safety of students and continue to provide high-quality services to students in the case Kentucky experiences a resurgence of COVID-19.

Foster said this plan can be a continuation of districts’ existing reopening plans they created during the 2020-21 school year.

Local Education Agency Plans, which outline how the district will use its ESSER funds, must be submitted to KDE by Saturday.

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